Thursday, May 31, 2012


Let’s just say, for the record, and this could be any of us,  that, some days are really good, and some days are really, really good. And usually, for me, this is the case. So when I have darker days, and my creativity isn’t flowing, and I’d rather hide in a hidey hole than face a day or I’d rather devour my feelings than express them, or I’d rather wallow in self-pity than think of others before me, I just have to be grateful. Do you ever have days like this?

When it’s 90 degrees and I’m cranky miserable, I have to be thankful that it’s not 92 degrees…and I am thankful for hormone replacement therapy.
When I could eat a plate of deluxe nachos then stay up half the night with heartburn, I’m thankful for freshly cut asparagus and a nice lean steak.

And when I feel like I could sleep my afternoon away, I am grateful for Pioneer Woman Perfect Iced Coffee.

And when dullness takes over and loveliness eludes me, I am grateful for peonies.

And when I feel unlovable, I am thankful for babies.

And when I feel unloved, I am grateful for people who, no matter what, set me straight and love me anyway.

And when I feel I have nothing to give, I am thankful that the only thing that keeps me from giving is my own selfish desires, and not my ability or means.

And when darkness comes, I am thankful that there is no darkness that cannot be overcome by just being grateful.

I hope your week has been one of great joy in the small things, thankfulness in the midst of trials, and blessings during disadvantage.

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Phillipians 5:11-13

Thursday, May 24, 2012

This small space

I am completely content  to spend my afternoon before dinner relaxing on the patio while tulips, viburnum, redbud,  azealeas and lily of the valley put on a show around me.  And to spend an evening working out my stuff of the day or the week.

                                                     In a way that I can't anywhere else.

There is a satisfaction in  this wee space, contemplating when the peonies will bloom and wondering how that new rose on the fence will fare after her first winter. 

 Pondering . Digging. Thinking.  The place where I  am in concert with the creator much like the way you are when you give birth.....just assisting in what is already pretty much perfect on it's own.  A new addition this year is many ferns from a neighbor, which will be filling up a very shady spot where little else will grow. Soon the hummingbirds will be back. And though they are as predictable as the sunset,  every year it’s a surprise and joy to see them at the feeder.

While I miss my big gardens at the old house, I really do delight in this small space. It’s cozy, and I there is just enough room for my very favorites. The real bonus is that we can maintain it in an hour each week, instead of being a grueling time-suck!   With the big gardens, it took both of us and a crew many hours each summer to keep the garden in it’s best shape.  There was never much time for relaxation. These days, I get to  read, have a drink, or  nap on the patio almost daily instead of weeding, pruning, deadheading and digging almost daily.

So, I say, smaller is better. Much better.

Monday, May 21, 2012


What attracted me to the Renfrew Pattern?  Needing a good pattern for a tee, for sure. But other than that, I really like that it is
Has sleeve variations
Has neckline variations
Has sleeve and hem band
It has a fitted shoulder and sleeve, which is always more flattering than a baggy, loose shoulder and sleeve.

This was going to be another fitting adventure for me.  So, here we go.
According to the measurements, my bust size put me above the size 16...yikes!  So straight out of the package, I cut my first version, with a full bust adjustment of about an inch.

I like the fit through the shoulders, bust and sleeves ( although I'm thinking I would like them a little more snug).
I should grade down to a size 12 from the bust to the band.
The neckline is too low for my liking, and maybe a bit too wide. 
But it’s okay. I wore a cami under it.

Next version,
I graded my pattern down through the hips and bottom band.
I raised and narrowed the neckline.
I shortened the sleeves and snugged them up a bit

Assessment: Much better. Neckline higher, shorter sleeve, better fit all the way around.  I like this pattern. I will make more. And I think you should make many Renfrews if you need a basic tee in your life.

And by the way, that white skirt? Michael Kors, thrifted for $4.00 this past winter.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Joy, Joy, Joy!

I am very excited about a new cookbook.
Joy the Baker, who’s blog I have been reading for a very long time, has just released her first cookbook.
While I flip through the pages over and over, making a list of all the recipes I MUST try, the recipes just this side of different. The pictures are beautiful... just as I would expect. I am also noticing that Joy brings the same quirky, funny and entertaining writing to her book as she does to her blog. And again, from Joy, I would expect no less. About Kettle Corn, she first laments on the mistakes she has made in her life, and then says," After each mistake,  I shoveled handfuls of this sweet and salty popcorn into my face. It's part of my process. I know I've learned a lesson when I can't possibly eat another bite."
This book is a gift from my daughter, who loves to cook. And bake. And try recipes for other fun things like salt scrubs and hand balm. Before I even received the gift on Mother’s Day, she had already made Perfect Kettle Corn three times. I wonder if she was learning a lesson?

I made Perfect Kettle Corn on Sunday night.
I made it on Monday night and Wednesday night. And I will probably make it again on Saturday afternoon…because I love it that much.

I love it almost as much as I love Renfrew, which was not a mistake.  

More on that later.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spring To Do-be-do-be-do

I say it every year at this that we have identified the Celebrity Apprentice/American Idol/Survivor/Insert Favorite Reality TV Show Here and whether or not Bree will be convicted OR If Dwight is the father of Angela's baby,  I get to sigh a huge sigh of relief and get some actual work done.

Ten Items on my Spring To-Do list:
1.       Finish painting the house. FINISH painting the house.
2.       Get ferns for the front porch.
3.       Make covers for the patio furniture.
4.       Start my iced tea/iced coffee making.
5.       Research and plan some Friday night Porch Dinners to get ready those warm nights ahead.
6.       Maybe, just maybe, try to find a new bathing suit. (which is almost as bad as trying to find jeans)
7.       Find a place, once and for all, for a hammock. JR promised.
8.       Hike the Niagara Gorge.
9.     Paint the dining room chairs for a (mini-makeover)....and the growing assemblage of furniture that needsTLC for the show in July.
10.       Mulch the gardens, and plant impatience.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


There is no one in this life or on this earth that has had more of an influence on me than my mother.
Other than being a mom myself, she has been and continues to be the one that has most shaped me,  It is Mom who has, in countless ways, even to this day, helped  to determine who I character, my abilities, my longings and how I love.  Her influence is expansive, right down to the very details of my thoughts and my life....whether she knows it or not! My mom has loved much, has sacrificed more, and always shown us the value of hard work and determination.

God has put us together in a special way that we may learn from each other, and for that I am grateful.
So to my Mom, Happy Mother's Day. And to my girls, Happy Mother's are better mothers than I can imagine being, which is a tremendous joy and blessing to me.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Thrifting Thursday

We’ve had another good batch of stuff come our way. And as we build our inventory for the show in July, I am running out of space to store it!
It’s been such fun hunting and re-purposing…it’s like I was made to do this. Of course, a dream of mine has always been to have a retail space, so in our own little way, we are able to do it and be creative on a budget at the same time. I have to tell you though, the auction scene can be ridiculous! I have seen side tables go for up to $80 and as little as $5!  For us, we like the $5 tables! 

Some of this week's finds
Or free…even better!  One of my keepers is a side table that I had in my bedroom, It's humble beginnings? It was going to be thrown away by a neighbor, and was rescued by us. I had originally spray-painted a metallic champagne color. I painted it Annie Sloan Duck Egg, and after some understated sanding of the edges, used Soft Wax to finish it, adding some shading with the Dark Soft Wax. What a pretty little piece!

A few weeks ago, I found a really, really cute cotton floral shift dress for like, $2. The fit was perfect, but I was not digging the exaggerated neckline detail.  It has a wide collar that may be hard to see, but it has a lot of fabric in the place where I do not need a lot of fabric.

So, I re-fashioned. Of course I did. By scooping out the neckline and finishing it off with a little tiny pompom trim, I think I got a much more flattering look.

 I am wearing this dress with a pair of brand new, never worn Tommy Hilfiger wedges that I thrifted for under $4! 

Don’t you love it?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Clovers and Pattern Options

These are my Clovers, by Collette Patterns. And I've gotta tell you, I do love these pants. Even better than the other Anne Klein Vogue pattern that I've made. These are made from cotton twill. No lycra. I like a little lycra, but it's really hard to find a nice pants weight with lycra in my neck of the woods. Therefore, if you do use a non-streatch,  you  have to give yourself a little more wearing ease

I made them according to my measurements, which meant I cut a 12, through the waist and tapered to a 10 through the hips and legs...that's right, my middle aged thicker waist and narrow hips.

That was the only modification I made.  I had an accidental modification when I put the slot pockets in the back, instead of the front. But that's okay. They are kinda cute that way!
I think with a few more fit tweaks ( or, more like fabric tweaks) these will be a great basic pant that can be the basis for many styles.

Wearing a Simplicity jacket I made, and a thrifted top.

So, now that these are checked off my list,
I’m ready for another sewing surge.
On my new list of things to do?
1.       The black eyelet dress (using the Lisette Traveler pattern)
2.       Renfrew tops…probably in multiples
3.       A couple of Weekender Sunshine Tops for layering
4.       Another pair of Clovers, made from some cute, cute, cute stretch orange gingham that
            I found for about $3 a yard
5.       A popover shirt ( I love that name…I saw several on the J Crew site. So cute) , using
            Hot Patterns Plain and Simple Superfantastic Shirt pattern.

Wow, now that I look at it, that’s a lot of independent pattern companies!  I love having the option of the Big Four AND independent companies. It’s great to have  budget friendly patterns always available, especially when you can stock up when Joann’s has those ridiculous .99, 1.99 and 3.99 prices. But I do love the independents, too. My first awareness of them ( other than Amy Butler) was when I started listening to Lori’s podcasts after I returned to sewing and started to take my garment sewing very seriously. I tried Hot Patterns and was a huge fan. And I’ve sewn Serendipity patterns last summer with good success. Most recently, I jumped on the Collette bandwagon, and I have to say again, I love these Clovers. I also have the Jasmine top in my collection, along with the book. Oh, yes…the 
Collette Sewing Handbook... oh, yes, The  Book.

The newest pattern I’ve acquired is the Renfrew top from Sewaholic. And I have to say, I’m pretty excited to work on this one. Who couldn’t use a good, basic tee shirt top? And, no doubt, you’ve been seeing all the test pattern buzz around her newest Cambie dress pattern. SO cute!
How do you get chosen to test sew patterns? I would LOVE to be able to do that!

I have pre-ordered my Gertie book, which I’m super excited about. And I’ve been taking a look at Victory patterns, too.

I guess the thing that’s super cool about all of this is that we have options. And there are a slew of very talented people out there to give us those options.
While I’ve never been afraid to alter a pattern or re-make something, I am ever amazed at these right brain designers who can draft patterns, which is so  technical and left brain.

What are your thoughts on sewing patterns? Are you loyal to any particular type? Does pricing impact how you choose a pattern? What are your favorite independent pattern designers?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bye Bye Birdie?

We really had a nice trip.  Sleeping on the train was, well, like sleeping on a train.  But we will do it again because it saved us from those extra travel days that we need for driving.  Arriving Friday somewhat rested, we so enjoyed our visit with Amelia and Jake and Jameson.  After a busy and fun weekend (which included Portillos, of course, and even a Cubs game!) we said our goodbyes with many tears and boarded that same train back to Buffalo.

Coming home to a quiet house was nice, but a little sad, too. The activities of babies and kids is always entertaining and so I miss not only the Chicago baby, but all of our grandchildren every day.

Birdie may be making a transition to  life with babies and kids. She always stays with Meghan’s family when we go away, and a little grandboy named Levon is head over heels in love with her. 

In addition to some phone photo updates, we got a text from Megan while we were away:
“ok,  so the joint custody arrangement will be as follows: I will keep Birdie during the week while you are at work. You may have her every other weekend and for 2 weeks during the summer, but not 2 consecutive weeks.”

Suddenly we find ourselves smack in the middle of a custody battle. Birdie was rescued from an uncertain future when we adopted her two years ago, and she has become a happy, happy dog, who loves to be around people. And I am left wondering if the unselfish thing to do is to allow her an even happier future, around lots of people.  Birdie does love their family and is so content to run around the farm, plant the garden with Meghan and be a constant companion to the boys. She is never alone. She is trained and social and is a bred to be wonderful consort, so Birdie is a known entity for their family…we will always be able to see her.

And I cried last night at the thought of saying goodbye. Are my tears enough of a reason to hold on to her?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Some of this, and a little of that...

The new Philosophy Summer Grace is amazing. I got some for Katie for her birthday, then had to go ahead and stock up on some shower gel, body lotion and fragrance for myself. It's perfectly lovely. And summery. I have never worn perfume. It gives me headaches. Then I became a Pure Grace fan because of it's light fresh, clean scent. So it was a nice surprise to find that I could wear this scent. It makes me feel like a girl.

JR bought a 1963 Singer sewing machine in a very, very cool cabinet. The machine works beautifully, and we are going to remake the cabinet into a little desk. The drawers were chock full of vintage sewing notions and all sorts of goodies. All for the amazing price of $9.99!

I am working on a pair of Clover's. Finally! They are a pretty cobalt blue with the most adorable little pockets!

Meghan, David and the boys came over last night for dinner. I just love those boys. Augie and I found a pattern to make a knitted Finn the Human doll, and he made me promise that when I went on my train trip I would be knitting Finn the whole time. AND that I would send progress pictures along the way!

We had great fun going through the yarn stash to find all of the perfect colors! Won't he be a fun little travel knitting project? 

Sofia let me paint her toenails! One foot purple, the other foot red. She just looked at them and looked at them, and said, "I have beautiful ponynails, Mimi. I look like a princess."

My serger needs to go to the serger guy again. And I am really thinking I need to save my money to get a new one. So, while I know everyone has their favorites, can you all share your serger love? I'm thinking an under $500 model is what I can afford. I'd love to hear your feedback.

Time to go watch Survivor and knit Finn!